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Local groups condemn Trump administration's gender memo 

click to enlarge CAUSE FOR CONCERN A leaked memo from the White House details plans to narrowly define gender, sparking a wave of criticism from transgender advocates in SLO and across the country. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • CAUSE FOR CONCERN A leaked memo from the White House details plans to narrowly define gender, sparking a wave of criticism from transgender advocates in SLO and across the country.

Local LGBTQ advocates are raising alarm over a recently leaked memo that revealed the Trump administration is considering narrowly defining gender, a move they say would erode protections and civil rights for the transgender community.

Area groups including Tranz Central Coast, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance of the Central Coast (GALA), The Queer Crowd SLO and others joined national outcry over the leaked memo, which said that the Department of Health and Human Services may move to establish a narrow legal definition of gender that would be binary, immutable, and based on genitalia at birth. The memo, obtained by the New York Times, indicated that the definition would be applied to Title IX, civil rights laws that govern gender discrimination in educational programs that receive federal funding.

Doug Huemann, chair of Tranz Central Coast, said the policy could have wide ranging and negative impacts if implemented and characterized it as an attempt by the administration to treat transgender individuals "as if they don't exist."

"This is trying to negate us and treat us like we are subhuman," Huemann said. "Even if you aren't transgender, this is offensive. These are American citizens, and they should be supported just like everybody else."

The Queer Crowd, a SLO-based LGBTQ advocacy group, also condemned the memo, stating that the proposal placed already marginalized groups at risk.

"For example, when members of our community are unable to receive identification that correctly reflects their gender it makes it more difficult for them to find work, housing, and medical care," a statement from The Queer Crowd said. "The proposed change would ignore the reality of life for transgender individuals."

In an Oct. 22 statement, GALA said the proposed rule would set a "dangerous precedent," but also noted that it would not change decisions made by dozens of federal courts over the last 20 years that affirmed the identities and rights of transgender people. Huemann said that California law may offer some additional protections for transgender individuals as well. Still, Huemann said he worried for transgender people living in states that don't have the same protections as California.

"I know local people who have come out to their families but are afraid to do so in public," he said. "There's definitely a fear."

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